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Socialism is a political ideology and lifestyle in which people work collectively to better themselves and society. In Cannery Row John Steinbeck uses Mack and the Boys, a group of unemployed friends to present an aspect of socialism. " Once in the Palace Flophouse the boys set about furnishing it . The Palace Flophouse grill began to function. The boys could all sit in front of their door and look across the track and across the lot and across the street"(16). This quote shows the guys working together to build a socialist microcosm and though Mack and the boys are not related they are a family that live together in a fishmeal storage house and they share the constant pursuit of survival. The boys also share simple pleasures of drinking and having a good old time. The men are not selfish and they live a life with more happiness than any wealthy man because they are not consumed with egotistical thoughts and greed. Steinbeck shows how socialism can work effectively when the dominant presence of capitalism is nowhere to be found. Socialism is also beautifully depicted in The Grapes of Wrath where the migrant workers all provide for each other by sharing food, knowledge and the common goal of survival. Steinbeck definitely uses the Joads to show a product of Socialism.
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The final theme that best conveys Steinbeck's message is the roles he assigns to women. In Cannery Row Dora Flood is a tenacious and strong Madame who built her own successful business. " Lee Chong's grocery... was a miracle supply a man could find everything he needed or wanted to be happy... the one commodity Lee Chong did not keep could be had across the lot at Dora's." (9) This quote conveys a woman that does not live in the shadow of a man and someone who is dominant force who holds control over her life and financial prosperity. Even though society looks down upon her because of her occupation she is a generous and kindhearted woman who sticks to her values. Though her business has to do with selling sex she makes sure that her girls do not drink or talk to men on the street and she runs a clean place that is free from vulgarity. Her acts are honorable and selfless and she gladly pays off people's grocery bills during the depression and does what she can to help out with the influenza epidemic. Steinbeck viewed women as intelligent, strong and significant people of the world and Dora is definitely a positive representation of his views. Ma is strikingly similar to Dora Flood because she is also a tender and compassionate woman. She is also considered inferior because she is an Okie, which was considered "white trash" by society's standards. When things get difficult the men of the family depend on Ma to hold things together "You got to go, you got to look after the whole family"(294). This quote by Pa shows his dependence on Ma even though throughout the novel he is embarrassed that she dictates powerfully over the family. When Cannery Row faces trouble, people know that Dora will be willing to donate time and money to set things back in order. Ma is often called on to take control of the family and though she tries her best to respect the male ego, she is not afraid to correct errors.
John Steinbeck is an incredible author who extracts his ideas from real places and people. His goal is to represent reality and though some of the subject matter he discusses is tragic and painful to comprehend it really gives the reader an appreciation for life because of Steinbeck's depiction of depressing times. He wished to convey the life of migrant workers and the society of Cannery Row down to the last detail. His work provided the world with some of the most valuable commentary on social and political issues but his specific descriptions of socialism, the innate human goal for survival and the importance of strong women in the world really provides the reader with a rich history of culture that can help one better understand the corrupt and inhumane things in life and possibly affect change.